The European Union is celebrating its 50th anniversary on the 25th of March - the date when the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.
The EU is 50 on 25 March
The treaty became one of the foundation stones of the European Union.
The BBC World Service and the BBC News website want to travel beyond the narrow confines of Brussels and Strasbourg to find out how European citizens really experience the EU.
We would love to hear about your experiences of the EU whether you live inside or outside its borders.
Does the European Union matter to you? How has the European Union shaped your life. Are you 50 years old as well this year? What kind of difference has the EU made?
A selection of your comments:
The EU is out of date and getting in the way of both freedom and enterprise. It is leaving us ill prepared to compete with and trade with the successful emerging economies of Asia, and impedes us when trying to catch up with the far richer and faster growing USA. It is beginning to detach the UK from the very successful Anglosphere. It drags us into conflicts like the Balkans where there is no UK national interest at stake, it taxes us too heavily and wastes too much of our money.
It does not keep Europe at peace - indeed the EU now seeks the means to wage war by seeking a European army and "defence identity". Nato and the US post war settlement kept the peace in Europe in the post war period, allied to the creation and retention of democracies in the west that did not wish to go to war with each other.
The EU needs fundamental reform, to give powers back to member states and to concentrate on the creation of a free market in Europe from which all can prosper.The EU centralises, bosses and is thoroughly undemocratic.
John Redwood, London
The European Union has made easier and exacting my life as I work and live in two countries, England and Spain. Since Spain joined to EU, the prosperity in Spain has been increasing enormously. However, thanks to the the common currency, ¿, it is so easy to travel cross Europe, that is why I got so many friends in Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy. I really love Europe, and I feel 'citizen of the World/Europe'.
Abrahan Salcedo, Bath (United Kingdom)/Ciudad Real (Spain)
The European Union, besides being a much needed counterbalance to the United States, has ensured peace in Europe for over fifty years now, something which had been unheard of previously, although young(er) generations simply take it for granted. On another level, with its strong emphasis on culture, the EU subsidises cultural projects all over Europe, ranging from films/ cinemas to the restorations of Europe's architectural heritage. Europe has brought the European countries together - literally and figuratively. Without Europe, I would not be in this country.
Martin Sauter, Birmingham, United Kingdom
I've just graduated and have found a good job thanks to the EU. A large international company opened its office in my city as a result of the EU enlargement, and I used this chance.
Marcin, Gdansk, Poland
The EU matters a lot to me, and I feel deeply European, although I would not say that my professionnal life is influenced by European political decisions and rules. I am only 46 years old but I grew in the atmosphere of franco-german reconciliation and I can remember all the big steps of European construction : in 1972 entry of the UK, the EMS in 75, the single market in 86 and the year 89, and the euro in 2001. My life is a European life.
Jean-Paul Doguet, Paris
I am sure for one thing that only because of EU,there is no war in EU zone and that is the best thing that EU got.
Khalid Mahmood, Essen,Germany
I am Anglo-Austro-Irish-Scottish-Czech with possibly a touch of Jewish. I speak very fluent German and used to be taken for a German in Germany. I have lived in Germany for ten years and in Austria for one year. I have a qualification from a German university and have studied at the University of Vienna. I am just the sort of bloke Europhiles expect to be in favour of the "EU". I hate and despise the "EU". I regard it as a greater danger than Al Quaida. I want friendship and co-operation in Europe. The "EU" is not about co-operation. It is about megalomania. It is about the creation of a Greater European Reich. The "EU" is currently tring to bully Switzerland. It supported the Spanish in the matter of a small island, which I consider to be Morroccan.
If/when it has just one army under the control of that lot in Brussels it will really take the cover of its megalomania. It is not responsible for peace in Western Europe. That claim is 95% bullfeathers. Since some claim that countries may not leave thh "EU" it makes wars of independence likely. They cannot make "Europe" stronger by creating something which so many of us hate and despise.
Tony Robinson, Ipswich, England
The EU allows me to work hassle free anywhere within it's borders. Everyday I see new examples of EU investment helping to develop the local economy. When I lived in the UK I was a Euro sceptic, now I am a Europhile!
Laura Dyer, Prague, Czech Republic
The European Union is the best that could happen to Europe, after introducing the universal vote. I am very happy that EU politicians have kept their word and kept the enlargment going, giving Romania and Bulgaria the chance they have been denied for decades. I hope EU will continue the enlargment, I hope when I turn 50 that I will not need a passport to travel from Iceland and all the way to the Caucasus.
Codrin, Arnhem, The Netherlands
Through its constant work at integrating the countries of Europe, the EU has rendered war within this unstable continent's core unthinkable -- a remarkable achievement, given the circumstances in the late 1940's. I take my hat off to the far-sighted people of the time who not only thought it possible to do this in the first place, but forged ahead and actually made my generation the first one in centuries who knew nobody who marched to war and death in Europe. I wish a rare and sincere "Hip, Hip, Hooray!" to Jean Monnet.
Robin Hilliard, Dublin, Ireland
The EU has changed my life in many aspects:
I'am from Lisbon, Portugal and many of the developmesnts in education, infra-structure and so on were subsidised by the EU. I am now studying in England and I don't have to pay my tuiton fees due to a european programme that helps students. The Erasmus programme reveiled to be an overwhelming success and I am thinking of apllying to the Leonardo programme in order to get work experience in a European country. The EU backs its citizens and gives them opportunities never thought of before.
Together we stand!
Will Furtado, Northampton, England
I live in Britain, work for German companies in Germany, can travel and settle without problems wherever I want in Europe. Living standards are almost the same, regardless where you are. So are the values. We don't fight each other anymore ... I do actually feel at home in Europe. Even in France. Who would have thought that fifty years ago and after the two most devastating wars in the history of humankind.
At home I listen to music from Ramstein(German), Franz Ferdinand (British), Edith Piaf (French) or Zucchero (Italian), read books by English, German or French authors, watch Spanish films and eat Italian or Greek food. And all of that is part of a European culture, which is pretty much the same in Holland as in Scotland or in Italy. And yet, there are all these differences, which really make Europe one of the most fascinating places on earth. I am 51 years this year, so I am actually older than the Union. Am I comfortably at home in this EU? Absolutely yes. Do I want the bad old times of hatred, mistrust, warfare and jingoistic nationalism back? No way!!!
Edgar Klusener, Manchester, UK
Yeey the EUSSR is turning 50. Since my country is no longer "independent" I have lost my freedom of speech , I am not allowed to smoke in my favourite bar, or on the train which no longer has smoker sections.The price of alchool and cigarets went up.But its all good cause I feel represented in Burssels :)Looooooool. I am sick and tired of political corectness being thrown at me and the constant threats comming from EU leaders.
Well one thing is for sure I am voting for PRM,yeah the right extremists maybe the will get us out of the EU.
EU is equal to the USSR the only difference is that the EU has a german communist presidency and not a Russian one. Although my country's independence was short (18 years) before joining the EU I can still say:
Out of the EU!!!GOD SAVE REPUBLIC.
Mihai Tudor, Hermanstadt ROMANIA
European Union is regarded as a modern historical experiment which has to succeed.It stands for its values such as respect to ambiguity, freedom, human rights and education. As a greek citizen I have been immensly benefited by the EU on every aspect of my life. Regerdless the differences between EU members I believe that cooperation rather than competition leads to creativity.
Nikolaos Goumagias, Veria Greece
Yes, the EU does matter to me, as I believe it has made a major difference - for me as for all EU citizens! It is the biggest and most successful peace project I ever. I am only 34 years old, but even I remember having to stop at every border for tedious checks when traveling, or having to do complicated exchanges if you were travleing through several countries.
I am against naive optimism, but I wonder: what would Europe look like today without the EU? In other words: in spite of all the criticism one might have of the EU and/or its institutions, they always have to be balanced against the "costs of non-Europe" (taxes, wars, etc.)
Waltraud Heller, Vienna, Austria
I'm as old as the EU. I've grown up in a continent which - a few sporadic barbarisms aside - managed itself to grow up a few centuries in the decade after its darkest time. I can board a train at Victoria and pass through dozens of boundaries without ceasing to be a citizen - one of the most glorious, humanity-enhancing experiences I can ever expect to enjoy. Those who whine about the dangers of a 'European superstate' are crushed by the weight of their tribal inadequacies.
Jim McDermott, Daventry, UK
Yes I am 50 years old this year too and wished we had never joined the EU. I remember we tried to join, on several occasions, before we were eventually allowed to, but the French Prime Minister had prevented us from doing so, because he thought we were not good enough. I wish we had given up the fight before we were allowed to join; that way we would have kept our fishing industry, ship building industry, border controls, etc. and the NHS would not be in such a mess because we have to support so many people from outside the UK.
Look at how much money of our money is wasted, especially on the Common Agricultural Policy, where millions of pounds go to France every year, to support their farming industry. Surely that would be better spent here, providing real jobs for us.
Susan Lange, Lichfield, England